24 April 2016

Magnet

Does this happen to you? You encounter a complete stranger and before you know what's going on they have started to bare their souls - pouring out torrents of private information. The thing about these strangers is that they appear to be focused wholly on themselves. When the encounter ends you realise that they never sought any information about you and didn't appear to be interested either. It was all just "Me. Me. Me."

Yesterday, I had just one hour to spend in Barton upon Humber before travelling over The Humber Bridge ahead of Hull City's match with Leeds United. I pulled into the car park on the river's southern forehore and went to get my camera from the boot (American: trunk) intending to bag some pictures of a magnificent structure that was once the longest suspension bridge in the world.









And then the stranger spoke to me. Steve was sitting in an old but very shiny black Ford Fiesta and was forty five and a half years old. I know that because Steve told me. It was amongst many things Steve said in the next fifteen minutes. I learnt about his sister's death and her recent funeral, I learnt about Steve's own health issues. Steve even lifted his sweater to reveal the surgery scars on his lower belly.

Steve showed me his disabled parking badge and he told me the details of the Ministry of Transport test recently carried out on his beloved vehicle. I got the story of a difficult meeting at The Job Centre just after he had come out of hospital and of course I learnt about his favourite pizza toppings.

And all the time I was nodding, attempting to show polite interest as Steve rambled on. He learnt nothing about me. It was as if my own life was of such very tiny significance that there would be little  point in even asking. 

My precious hour at Barton was disappearing like sand in an egg timer. Steve paused to take a breath and I leapt in to say that I'd love to hear more of what he had to say but I needed to get my photos now. Steve seemed a little downcast but I shook his hand and wished him good luck and went on my way.

When I got back to the car, I noticed that Steve had accosted another innocent visitor to the car park and he was now engaging her in one sided conversation. Perhaps Steve waits there all day, ensnaring folk with his everyday tales. I got into my car without Steve even noticing and drove on to Barton town centre.

Later, as I drove over the bridge, I reflected on how very many times I have found myself listening and nodding to people like Steve. I seem to attract them like a magnet when very often I just want to switch to "repel".
Former police station front door
Barton's high street

23 comments:

  1. Perhaps poor Steve has no friends; no one who cares about him or his life. Perhaps he is a very lonely fellow, feeling his existence is insignificant; an invisible soul in a world that doesn't recognise he is a part of it, even if only a small part.

    Maybe the only comfort he gets is from talking to strangers.

    I say "to" purposely because that's his way of reaching out for some comfort to ease his pain; his loneliness - in the hope someone shows some interest, no matter how little or for how brief a time. Not so brief in your case, from what you say, but I am sure there are many others who just brush him off within a moment or two.

    No doubt he's grieving the loss of his sister; perhaps she was the only person close to him; the only person who ever cared; and now she's gone forever....the sounds of silence and loneliness can roar loudly.

    Life can be so sad for some...behind their closed doors; between their four walls only solitude for company; with no one to give a damn about them...whether they live or die.

    An hour might seem long to you and to me...but perhaps to Steve it meant so much more. Who knows? Lending your ear could have done a lot of good...for him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a very kind and generous take on the situation. :)

      Delete
    2. You may be right about Steve Lee. I could tell that he was a man with "issues". If I had had more time I might have listened longer which is what I normally do. I think that other people view me as a good listener.

      Delete
    3. I think you're right Lee, Steve does sound as though he's very lonely and has no-one to share his life with.

      Delete
  2. I love the green door!! What a beautiful color!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Certainly distinctive Jennifer.

      Delete
  3. While I was reading your account, I was wondering whether there was a camera team hidden somewhere. Then I read Lee's very empathic comment and felt ashamed.
    My Mum is such a magnet, by the way. No matter where she goes, when there is someone even remotely similar to Steve within a 5 mile radius, they are certain to single my Mum out and make a beeline for her the moment she appears on the scene.
    I've been with her on such occasions numerous times, and there are countless more such encounters she told me about when I wasn't present.
    Lee's point rings true; there must be so many lonely/weird (what is cause, and what effect, I wonder?) folks out there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps your mum and I wear the same perfume Meike!

      Delete
  4. I tend to go along with Lee's comment, that Steve's need to talk to anyone and everyone could be down to loneliness on his part. Of course, the reason he is lonely might be because of his complete lack of interest in the people he talks to!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On reflection, I am not at all sure about the loneliness theory Mr Pee. I couldn't include everything that Steve said to me in that frantic fifteen minutes of verbiage but he certainly referred to family and friends.

      Delete
    2. In that case, maybe he'd just had a row with his wife !

      Delete
    3. He didn't mention a wife but he might have had one... possibly in the cellar.

      Delete
  5. Sometimes when I read your posts I think what a great fiction writer you are, making up wonderful stories about places and people for the entertainment of your vast viewing audience and to accompany your huge collection of photographs. Sometimes I actually believe you and get caught up in your tales. I can't decide which category this post fits into. Rapa N'ui, real. Thailand, real. Talkative stranger at Humber Bridge, not sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bob, did I tell you about the fairies that live at the bottom of our garden?

      Delete
  6. I love that Police Station door.

    Steve needs a blog! LOL

    Seriously, I think Lee is on to something. The poor guy probably doesn't have anyone to talk to, so he sits there and accosts whoever happens by. You were probably much more polite to him than some people would have been. (I have this same problem -- getting roped into one-sided conversations with complete strangers. I wonder why we look approachable, YP?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why do we look approachable? Maybe because we have big handles on our backs (i.e. We are mugs!). When he told me his name I thought that it was you Steve but then I noticed that his skin was not bright orange as in that school drawing of you!

      Delete
  7. Yes, every once in awhile we meet a complete bore and we can't get rid of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Donald S.Trump must have had that effect on thousands of people.

      Delete
  8. You need to train as a samaritan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never even been to Samaria! I am Yorkshire through and through.

      Delete
  9. Ah Barton on HUmber. Isn't that where the ferry used to go from before the days of the bridge? My first husband and i had a tandem and we used to cycle from Aisthorpe in Lincolnshire up to the ferry, cross over to Hull, find a B and B overnight and come back the next day. Lovely memories. But I do like the bridge too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There may have been a ferry from Barton but mostly you yellowbellies came across to the land of milk and honey from New Holland which is three miles east of Barton.

      Delete
  10. Perhaps we'll never know about Steve. He may have made up family and friends to appear not to be alone. He may or may not have been a fictitious character. Me? I'm inclined to go along with Lee.

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.